The Van Fleet Government Scholarships were awarded yesterday. The program was open to all juniors and seniors that attend one of Alexandria’s four High Schools. According to Van and Team Van Fleet, participants worked on the campaign four hours a week and the program was designed for participants to learn “what is involved in running for office, the issues currently facing Alexandria City government, the electoral process, and the importance of voting.” One $1,000 scholarship was awarded along with two second place winners in the amount of $500 each.
Olivia Georgi and Maggie Mildrew, both seniors from Bishop Ireton, received $500 scholarships to be used for higher education. Maggie stated, “I am now actually considering a political science minor with a communications major in college as a result of this great experience.” Olivia said, “I thoroughly enjoyed working on this campaign…. I now have a much greater appreciation for the political process.”
The first place recipient was Amara Edwards. Amara is a senior at TC Williams. Upon receiving the award she stated that participating in the Van Fleet for Alexandria City Council “made me actually consider being involved in political endeavors in the future.” Amara’s winning essay follows . . .
By Amara Edwards from TC Williams
While volunteering with the Van Fleet campaign for Alexandria City Council, I gained valuable insight into the political campaign process. Collaborating directly with Van Fleet also gave me the opportunity to learn about him as an individual and get to know the issues he was most vehement about.
I learned that in running a campaign, you first have to have a team. Each member of the Van Fleet team were individuals who came from various backgrounds. They came together, giving their time, and contributing something different to the effort to elect Van Fleet. Furthermore, I learned that promoting yourself in the community is very important because if people don’t know about you, how are they to vote for you? Alexandria being the very diverse city that it is, you have to also appeal to a variety of demographics.
As in any community, there are many issues up for debate in Alexandria. The “Battle of the Waterfront” is a big issue, most affecting the Old Town area. A multi-year $60 million program to redevelop the city’s waterfront is proposed, and this will raise taxes for citizens as they try to fund the project. A five-story, 120-room hotel is also proposed, and nearby residents express concerns about parking and congestion issues, and the size and scale of the project, as well as its architectural design. Not only is it an issue due to the expenditure of money, but high-end development does not fit into the architectural style of historic Alexandria. Millions of dollars are being allocated on high-end development when it could be used on more important issues, such as affordable housing, which seems to be diminishing. While walking around the Del Ray area passing out campaign literature in low-income neighborhoods, a resident brought up the fact that she didn’t like that housing for low-income people was not being integrated with regular housing. This distinct separation upset her.
Many people undermine the importance of voting for city council, but the reality is that voting for your local government is the first step to getting your voice heard within your own community; the city council produces policy that has the most immediate impact on you. While passing out campaign literature in different areas around Alexandria, I realized that a lot of people were not yet registered to vote in the city for one reason or another. A lot had said they had just moved to Alexandria, while others just weren’t interested in voting. I believe that if you hold specific views about what should be done in your community, you should do something about it by voting for a representative.
This opportunity to participate in the Van Fleet campaign for Alexandria City Council was very enriching and it made me actually consider being involved in political endeavors in the future. I know that when I am eligible to vote, I will definitely be an active voter for city council.
As your elected official, my agenda on Council will be to:
Rebuild the city’s trust by demanding increased transparency at City Hall.
Preserve the historic nature of our neighborhoods, while allowing respectful development.
Provide adequate resources to our safety net, the Alexandria Police and Fire Departments, so that they can focus on their jobs.
Improve the quality of education in our schools. Emphasize learning not buildings.
Endorse sensible growth in which future developments fit into our neighborhoods, and are tied directly to the ability of our local roads and related infrastructure to handle the predictable increase in traffic and demand on services.
Initiate a thorough independent performance audit of the City’s Operating and Capital Improvement Budgets to ensure that the citizens of Alexandria are receiving cost effective, efficient and reliable services.
Tackle the structural imbalance between our revenues and expenditures which has resulted in a 300% increase in our current debt ($530 million) over the past ten years.
Pursue the use of referendums through the state’s General Assembly so that our citizens are able to approve or disapprove the funding of large capital projects.
Recruit new businesses to come to Alexandria to eliminate the current commercial property vacancy rate of 17% while simultaneously increasing our tax revenues. Establish a business friendly climate.
For more information, to volunteer, to contribute, and to follow me on social media please visit www.vanisyourman.com.